SOURCE: The Family Education and Resource Center (FERC)

The Family Education and Resource Center (FERC)

October 12, 2010 12:48 ET

Alameda County's "Family Education & Resource Center" (FERC) Celebrates One Year Anniversary

OAKLAND, CA--(Marketwire - October 12, 2010) -  It took vision, years of planning and advocacy; a true labor of love. On Thursday, October 7 Alameda's newest partner for family members dealing with their own very personal journeys -- The Family Education and Resource Center (FERC) ( -- celebrated one year of "being there" for residents of Alameda County. More importantly, the event, called "Partners In This Journey," celebrated those who worked tirelessly for years setting the stage for this program to finally be funded with Mental health Services Act funds. The event took place at Oakland's Waterfront Hotel and coincided with National Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 3 - 9, 2010).

"We wanted to thank everyone who participated in the visioning, creation and existence of FERC ("

"We've been there; we can help," says Karina Foote, FERC Program Director, noting that every member of the FERC staff have the lived experience of supporting a loved one with mental illness.

As one in four Americans either suffer with a mental illness themselves or has a family member so dealing, the services provided by FERC are crucial. Plus, in challenging economic times, the strain on individuals and families is even greater. To help meet that need -- and meet the need in ways that are most comfortable to their clients -- FERC provides both in person and telephone support. All services are free. 

"We call it our 'warm line' telephone service," says Foote. "There is still so much misunderstanding, fear and therefore much stigma around issues of mental health and illness; it is sometimes easier for our clients to discuss their needs over the phone." Also, cultural competency is a vital part of our mission. "We meet our clients where they are in terms of their ability to cope with their own and the struggles of their loved ones," says Annie Kim, Lead Family Advocate.

Staff at FERC help individuals navigate the often complex web of behavioral health services. When needed, FERC staff will even make the initial contact or appointment with an agency on behalf of an individual. In addition, FERC staff assist with locating resources such as mental health care, housing, day programs, and recreation, and offer guidance about managing family relationships and developing coping strategies. "We direct people to available and appropriate services," says Kim. People who contact FERC in the midst of a crisis may be directed to the appropriate crisis management services.

As a new program of the Mental Health Association of Alameda County (contracted for service with ACBHCS), FERC has been reaching out to clients and organizations to offer their services. Staff members are available not only on site, but also to facilitate or take part in support groups for other organizations. As FERC continues to grow, staff also plans to develop support groups for transition age youth (15-27) who have a family member with a mental illness and to provide education about mental illness for classroom teachers.

FERC's main office is in Oakland's Eastmont Town Center (7200 Bancroft Avenue, Suite 269), with additional offices in Fremont and Hayward. A site in Livermore will open later this fall. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm and people from anywhere in Alameda County are welcome to drop in with questions or to conduct research in the library or on the Internet.

"For many years, we envisioned a safe harbor for people in Alameda seeking mental health services," said Margot Dashiell, Chairperson of the Alameda County Family Coalition, speaking at the October 7th event. "FERC has become that safe harbor."

The Family Education and Resource Center (FERC) is a new and innovative family/caregiver-centered program that will provide information, education and support services to family/caregivers of children, adolescents, transitional age youth, adults or older adults with serious emotional disturbance or mental illness living in all regions of Alameda County. These services will be provided in a culturally competent manner, reaching out to people of all ethnicities. For more information about FERC, call 510-746-1700. To access services, families can call 1-888-896-FERC (3372).

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